“The yoga pose is not the goal. Becoming flexible is not the goal. Standing on your hands is not the goal. The goal is serenity. Balance. Truly finding peace in your own skin.”
― Rachel Brathen, Yoga Girl
"Breath, movement, alignment and information are our best tools for pelvic health" - Shannon Crow, RYT & Consultant
How's your pelvic health?
My what??? Exactly. We hardly ever talk about it.
For me, I realized that my pelvic health was quite poor back in the Spring of 2017 when I was at the Toronto Yoga Show and literally within 20 minutes of my first class of the day (I had a jam packed schedule all day long) I was in agony and in terrible pain - my pelvis felt like it was no longer participating with the rest of my body. The way I explained it was that "my top doesn't feel connected to my bottom". This felt like a huge fail - getting injured at the Yoga show? The Mecca of my year!!! I was enrolled in a class to learn how to do handstands for crying out loud! That definitely wasn't happening.
Wasn't yoga supposed to help your back? Wasn't yoga supposed to heal all aches and pains?!? As it turns out, we are all built so very differently that certain yoga poses, styles and sequences for certain bodies can be contraindicative to what we are actually trying to accomplish with yoga (less pain, more fluidity, muscle tone).
I realize now that it was no coincidence that I was meeting up with Shannon Crow later that day for some Indian food and to reconnect with some of my other Kula mates (people you were in yoga teacher training with). This was some good foreshadowing indeed.
Turns out Shannon is passionate about pelvic health. I mean she is pretty much an expert on this.
Fast forward to this year, I have been pregnant and given birth to my now 6 month old baby girl. But with these two hugely joyous life events came something not so great - major low back pain. That same pain from the Yoga Show had returned and my pelvis was again on vacation and not participating with the rest of my body. Carrying my baby in my belly and now carrying her in her carseat has really taken a toll on my pelvis.
So, I attended a workshop with Shannon at Beth Rutty's Yoga Studio outside of Meaford and it was a game changer for my low back pain. I arrived in tremendous pain, and when I left, that pain had significantly improved. Shannon is a wealth of knowledge on this topic. She explains things like: urinary urgency (hello preggos or postnatal women!) incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, low back pain and diastasic recti. (These are only SOME of the issues) She underscores the importance of going to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist especially postpartum - did you know that in Europe women receive this as part of their medical care after birth? In fact, over 50% of women experience some kind of pelvic health "dysfunction" in their lifetime. That is A LOT of women. And yet...we never talk about it. Or if we do all we ever here is that we should do our Kegels! (The pressure for women's bodies to be "tight" is the topic of a whole other blog post...)
And here's the kicker - not everyone should be doing kegels! Again Shannon highlighted that we are all built differently and that some of us might have super weak pelvic floor muscles and some of us might have overly tight pelvic floor muscles - but this is only something that a pelvic floor Physio can assess for us. In that case, there are different movements and exercises that can help us heal but it is uniquely individual.
A super cool aspect of pelvic health is also that we literally carry ALL of our organs in this bowl shaped structure. Our pelvis is our most stable part of our body and it can tell us so much about ourselves. In fact that fight or flight survival urge finds it's deepest home within our pelvic floor - meaning that if we are bundles of stress walking around chances are that our pelvic floor is all stressed out too. After we did our pelvic floor sequence in the workshop we all felt like taking a nap. This is because we allowed out pelvic floors to relax which in turn singled our nervous system to also relax. Magic! (body-mind connection for the win!)
Shannon provided resources for us to check out but personally I found this sequence by Shannon to be the most helpful- it really goes to show you that even subtle movements and breath can make a huge difference in our bodies. Not only this but just bringing awareness and attention to these areas in our body can allow us to loosen and soften them on demand - you know that whole mind-body connection stuff?? Turns out it works!
Important takeaways :
Just recently I started taking Quinne to a Kindermusik class in Barrie (which she loved very much.) And what struck me was something the teacher said and did. In the middle of the class she dimmed the lights and brought out a flashlight to play with on the ceiling while she played "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". She told us to snuggle the babies and that this was our relaxation time and that babies need to learn to relax because relaxation is something we learn.
Oh yaaaaaa! I forgot this! With all of the training that I have as a Yoga Teacher and Therapist, I literally forgot that this also applies to children and babies not just adults. Or, maybe it's not that I forgot but it's that I am used to just tellings someone (usually my mom if I'm being honest) to relax, take a deep breath. Also, it has been awhile since I've been teaching a regular yoga class so the idea of a regimented relaxation practice eluded me!
The benefits to a regular relaxation practice are such things as, decreased blood pressure, lessened anxiety and depression, a more overall sense of being present and mindful and even deeper sleep!
Here are some tips to taking a few moments out of your day to relax!
Let me know in the comments how you find relaxation throughout you day or week!